Film festival marks five years of bringing the world to Sarnia / by Karen Harnisch

A weekend packed full of award-winning films, in-depth cinematic discussion and cutting edge music awaits attendees to this year’s South Western International Film Festival.

The festival, now celebrating its fifth year, will be showcasing a wide variety of Canadian and international filmmakers with 14 feature films being screened at the Imperial Theatre as well as 12 short films set to be shown at the Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery Nov. 7-10.

Every film to be screened truly reflects the festival’s original mandate, Srinivasan said, which was to bring culturally diverse films made by a disparate group of storytellers to Sarnia-Lambton.

Fans of the silver screen will also get a chance to speak with rising Canadian star Kacey Rohl and directors Calvin Thomas and Yonah Lewis, who will be screening their 2019 film White Lie on Saturday, Nov. 9.

A compelling drama about a young Hamilton undergrad who becomes a minor celebrity after faking a cancer diagnosis, the dark and complex story was nominated for Best Canadian Feature Film at TIFF.

“It’s a really fascinating character study and it’ll be great to have them here to engage the community,” Srinivasan said.

All in all, SWIFF’s fifth will be wall-to-wall bliss for film and music lovers, Srinivasan said.

Asked whether he ever thought the festival would last five years and be so pervasive in the community – during this past year SWIFF hosted indigenous film workshops at Walpole Island, Aamjiwnaang and Kettle and Stony Point First Nations and started up a monthly winter series SWIFF Selects – Srinivasan said that he didn’t have an inkling that it would get so big or last so long.

“I didn’t know how long this would last, to be honest,” he said. “But the community is still very supportive of it and we’re still getting recognition from provincial bodies who think what we’re doing is worthwhile. And audience members are still coming out to watch the films. So as long as we continue to have that support, we’re going to continue offering these programs and this type of art and culture to Sarnia-Lambton.
“In Sarnia-Lambton there are definitely a core of people who buy all access passes before we even announce the films, they’re locked in and they’re dedicated,” he added. “And then it’s up to us to add in films which will attract other members of the community who might just want to see one or two films. So I really think this year, our fifth year, is by far our strongest year in terms of offering quality content from around the world. I hope more people will come and see just what we’re doing.”


What: South Western International Film Festival

When: Thursday, Nov. 7 to Sunday, Nov. 10

Where: The Imperial Theatre, the Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery and Altspace (CineGaze).

Tickets:, or the Imperial Theatre box office